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Back Pain is the Leading Cause of Disability

The Lancet Rheumatology medical journal published a new study confirming that low back pain continues to be the leading global cause of disability. Approximately, 619 million people reported low back pain in 2020, and that number is expected to rise to 843 million by 2050, costing the United States an estimated $2.2 billion.

Around 40% of cases can be attributed to smoking, obesity, and work-related factors. Within the United States, 15% of the workforce reports 10.5 workdays lost, in females and males of all ages, due to chronic low back pain.

Employer considerations

Low back pain results in up to 264 million lost workdays across the US, and if left unaddressed, could result in additional chronic health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health conditions, invasive procedures, and impact disability.

Workplace factors that contribute to disability include stationary desk work, and repetitive movements, like twisting and rotating the spine and moving heavy objects. In order to reduce back pain in the workplace, employers should consider:

  • Promoting healthy lifestyles. Employees should be well informed of the advantages of physical activity and weight management.
  • Requiring management and employees to attend safety seminars. Employees can avoid workplace risks and injuries when properly educated.
  • Making adjustments in the workplace. For example, employees with back problems may prefer standing desks. Additionally, employers should consider whether heavy objects can be stored or transported in another way that reduces the burden on employees’ backs.

The workplace should have a culture that promotes health and safety in an effort to increase employee satisfaction and decrease disability claims.